My husband has booked us round trip tickets to Budapest in August and wants me to decide what to do and see! Help! Should I buy the Europass? How hard would it be to get to Dubrovnik?
"How hard would it be to get to Dubrovnik?" Very. Dubrovnik doesn't even have a train station, and unless you fly, overland transit between Budapest and Dubrovnik takes forever. Unfortunately, your husband has made a "classic" mistake - he booked airfare without knowing what you wanted to see. Flying to Budapest is a great way to start a trip to Hungary, but a lousy way to get to Dubrovnik. Furthermore, doing a round trip instead of a multi city flight (open jaw, into one city and out of anther) means you will have to backtrack. So, you should turn your lemons into lemonade, and focus on places near Budapest - Hungary, Austria, and possibly Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Poland. You should get Rick Steves Eastern Europe and at least one other guide for the region (yes, it's technically Central Europe, so if you are looking at Lonely Planet, get their Central Europe guide). Then, use http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en to look at train schedules. You'll get some sense of how long the journeys are, and what you can realistically see in 2 weeks with your restrictions.
Well Shoot! I've been watching Rick Steve's Europe and really would like to see Dubrovnik. I will check into your other suggestions. I don't think I want to spend two whole weeks in Budapest. Thanks for your help.
You don't have to spend all two weeks in Budapest, but you do have to plan carefully so you are back there for your flight home. I would go to your furthest point as soon after arrival as you can, then work your way back to Budapest. There's lots of places to see in Hungary and the other countries I listed. When I went to Hungary, I saw Eger and Pecs as overnights, and Vac and Szentendre as daytrips from Budapest. I wasn't as enamored of Eger as Rick Steves is, and Szentendre was pretty but very touristed. I loved the other two (Vac isn't in Rick's books; I learned about it from Frommer's Budapest) Here's a thread with lots more Hungary ideas: http://tinyurl.com/a9jkmkn Vienna is just 3 hours away from Budapest, so that's easy; Prague is farther, but still perfectly doable. And Austria and the Czech Republic have lots more to see than just their capital cities. To look for flights to Dubrovnik, use http://www.skyscanner.com. Remember that not all routes have daily service. And if you can't get a flight to Dubrovnik, Split is a 5 hour bus ride away (my sister preferred Split to Dubrovnik, but that's another discussion; I've never been to Croatia).
Thank you so much James. We will be there 15 days. I will study up on those places you suggested and will try to see as much as we can. I'm curious about the railpass. Is it worth getting? I wouldn't mind traveling in a sleeping car at night to get to new places, anything to keep away from rental cars. I watch Rick Steves and he used one and I thought that would be fun. Thanks again! I am so excited.
Two weeks is 14 days? Sounds like a silly question but when I travel I take the weekends at both ends when ever possible and so my two weeks is 16 days. Figuring a day and a half to get over there and a day back that leaves 13 full days. But no matter; here are some personally tested ideas and a few ideas I have been holding for future trips. Budapest is a good five day trip and can spend weeks there and not get bored, but I imagine you want to get out and see more of the world. So let's say you arrive on Sunday and then stay in Budapest Tuesday, Wednesday and then on Thursday you begin stage two, which could be:
1. Vienna. Take the train to Gyor (about 1.5 hours) see the Archabbey in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pannonhalma_Archabbey and visit the baroque town center http://www.gyortourist.info/ , spend the night at the old cloister turned hotel http://klastrom.hu/index.html . Then the next day move on to Vienna by train (about 1.5 hours). Vienna is good for a couple of days (there are better experts here on Vienna than me) then return to Budapest for another 3 full days and head home the following day. So the trip would look like: a. Day one, Budapest to Gyor http://budapestflat.shutterfly.com/hungary2 b. Day two, Gyor to Vienna c. Day Three, Vienna d. Day Four, Vienna e. Day Five, Vienna to Budapest 2. Eger. The Hungarian wine country. About 3 hours by Train and worth an overnight stay. http://budapestflat.shutterfly.com/hu2 The Senator Haz hotel is in a great location and the cantankerous old guy that runs it is an event all to its self. http://www.senatorhaz.hu/en.html 3. Close to Budapest. Szentendre. Lovely artist town. Take the commuter train there in about 30 minutes and then take the water taxi back to Budapest. There is something special about entering Budapest on the water. 4. Close to Budapest. Vac, another charming little town about 30 minutes away by train. This one complete with mummies. 5. Close to Budapest. The palace at Godollo; especially in the spring and summer when the gardens are in bloom http://budapestflat.shutterfly.com/hungary2
6. A little further a field is Tihany on lake Balaton. Beautiful in the summer http://budapestflat.shutterfly.com/hungary2 I understand that Brad Pit keeps a home here.
7. Slovakia. I don't know your budget but the Banska towns in Slovakia are beautiful and worth the 2.5 to 3.5 hour drive through the countryside. I've only gotten there by car and since I don't like driving I've always hired a driver. http://budapestflat.shutterfly.com/slovakia
Write me if you want more ideas or if you need help planning what to do within Budapest. Finally, my favorite idea of all. Spend a few days in Budapest then fly to Romania. I know a guide that will take you cross country for a week for less per day (including the hotels) than the cost of a really good hotel room in the states and then return you to Budapest. We've done this and it was a trip of a life time.
There's PLENTY to do in Budapest, and plenty in the region. Budapest: 3-4 days Bratislava, Slovakia: 1 day Vienna: 3 days
Salzburg: 2 days, also seeing the slave labor camp at Mauthausen Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg - that's probably 2 weeks. You can go to Zagreb by car, you can go to Ljubljana by car. That region is just chock-a-block filled with stuff. 2 weeks is not enough. But 2 weeks for Budapest alone is too much. And driving to Dubrovnik is a long long drive from Budapest.
I could keep someone busy in Budapest with day trips and a few overnighters for two weeks and i bet they would enjoy it so its really not too much time; but if its your first visit to the region (which is more properly CENTRAL Europe) then you really should look around a little and try and vary the experience. As for the rail pass, i wouldnt do it. I dont think you will get much profit out of it. For instance you can buy a ticekt to Vienna a few days in advance and get if for about 30 euro or $40. The other train trips i pointed out are $5 to $15 tickets. This is not an expensive part of the world. I can give you deails on most of what i posted, feel free to write. James
Debbie: You should follow James' advice about Budapest. He's very experienced. But mostly you should do some research into Poland, Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, Croatia, and Slovenia. These countries are all near Hungary. Depending on what you want to do, things can be accessed either by car (driving in Europe is easy) or train. I'd begin with a large map of central Europe. You can find such maps at your local bookstore. Look at the map. See what cities are there. Rick Steves does a telephone consultation once you have a basic idea. It is %75 for an hour, so you need to get them to help you make choices. There's no substitute for looking at books and doing research. Don't buy tickets until you have an idea. 2 summers ago, we did Vienna-Budapest-Plitvice Lakes-Split-Salzburg area-Vienna. We began with the map, looking to do a circle tour. We started with the notion of Split, Budapest, and Vienna. After that, it was fill in the blanks. Good luck. I love the area.
A lot comes down to how much you want to spend and your travel style. I'll take a train if its direct and efficient; if not I will hire a car and driver (I want to watch the scenery not the road). Vienna is a no brainer by train. We love Slovakia but is tougher by train so we hire a car. We like to plan 2/3 sort of on the cheap and 1/3 sort of first class. Central Europe is generally inexpensive compared to most of the west and what you get is majestic sights in an atmosphere that is a lot less "tourist" and a lot more real. Let me know your thoughts and I would be glad to help. That web site I linked up above also has some links to photos of places in the region if that helps you decide any.